Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

San Jacinto and Hemet schools increase security measures in wake of national school shootings

 

Last updated 3/15/2018 at 1:25pm

Shane Gibson

From left, San Jacinto High School senior Nadia Talamantez, San Jacinto High School sophomore Abel Buenrostro and San Jacinto High School Principal Luke Smith, share insights to some of the negative treatment some students receive and suggests ways to promote positivity at the school.

The recent Parkland, Florida, school shootings and a nationwide anti-violence school walkout event planned recently has spurred the superintendents of both San Jacinto and Hemet school districts to announce new security measures being instituted in all schools.

Hemet police and the contracted Riverside County Sheriff's Department are collaborating with the districts in the effort to assure the students in the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley schools of greater security on the campuses. Both school superintendents, Christi Barrett from HUSD and Diane Perez from SJUSD, made public announcements of the new security measures being instituted on campus and offered students and parents means to immediately notify the districts and law enforcement of any suspicious activity that could threaten the students on the campuses.

Perez along with the San Jacinto Police Department called a news conference Friday, March 9, to inform students and parents of a school anti-violence Campaign: "Cultivating a Community of Caring." Members of local law enforcement, the SJUSD board of trustees, school psychologists, counselors, school emergency preparedness officer, Parent-Teacher Association representatives and students were present at the announcement to explain the immediate and long-term activities as well as the overall safety plan.

The anticipated Wednesday, March 14, national school anti-violence walkout was discussed, and it was announced that the district's high schools would be participating on campus with students, teachers and administrators all urged to wear orange to show respect to many students lost to school violence in recent times and their support in improving campus security.

Orange is the national anti-bullying campaign and the universal color for safety and the key color for the SJHS Tiger athletic teams.

Perez said that the walkout would only be on the campuses and not outside.

"If students walk off the campus, we cannot guarantee their safety." she said.

'If You See Something, Say Something'

Other activities were suggested, March 14, in the district's middle and elementary schools including lessons about anti-bullying, violence prevention, safety instructions and drills and the introduction of "If You See Something. Say Something" pledge.

"We have been sharing with parents our safe and effective alternative to students walking off campus as part of the National School Walkout Day on March 14," Perez said. "I have been meeting with students and listening – they are planning some great activities and promoting a respectful remembrance of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida."

Perez said the district has been working closely with the local law enforcement for every threat that has emerged on social media targeting the San Jacinto Valley.

"And there has been some," she said, noting they have been false.

"The continued disruption to the education of our students and increase in anxiety among students, staff and families as a result of these false threats and rumors, requires SJUSD officials and supporting agencies to take concerted and collaborative action," Dr. Karen Kirshchinger, district director of student and community support, who works with law enforcement and support agencies, said.

The key effort in the district is to improve the security in the schools, to bring school administrators, parents, teachers and students to take action in reporting potential threats to schools and to let them know that if they "See Something, Say Something." It begins by reporting bullying, cyberbullying, threats, strange behavior, drug of alcohol abuse, depression, being assertive and helping their friends in need.

It was announced that the reports can now be made anonymously through a mobile application, http://www.anonymousalerts.com/sanjacintousd, which can be downloaded to smartphones or tablets and is available in the app stores.

Lt. John Salisbury, San Jacinto's police chief from the Riverside County Sheriff, spoke to those at the conference.

"We are thankful for our partnership with SJUSD," Salisbury said. "We thoroughly investigate all threats using our 'Kids with Guns' protocol, and we especially appreciated the school district for working diligently with education and observation to help prevent any acts of violence with our community youth."

'Random Acts of Kindness' urged

Two representatives from San Jacinto schools, Nadia Talamantez from San Jacinto High School and Jaime Oceguera from Mountainview View High School and Mountain Heights Academy, announced their plans at the conference to promote a "Random Acts of Kindness" campaign to connect with other students on campuses, so no student should feel alone in these times of escalating school violence.

Perez said the students were asking the district schools to conduct more "lock-down" drills in the event of an actual threat of violence on campus. The district will be conducting this month, she said.

She introduced Donna Gingera, the founder and consultant for the "Hour-Zero Emergency Program," an emergency preparedness and response system developed specifically for K-12 schools. Gingera will be working with the San Jacinto Police Department to train students on warning signs and what to do in the event of a school threat of violence.

Attending the news conference and showing their support for the districts anti-violence campaign were Jacqueline Lopez, district director for 36th District Congressman Raul Ruiz; Katelyn Wilkinson, district representative for 67th District Representative Melinda Melendez; Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington; Capt. Leonard Purvis from the Riverside County Sheriff's Hemet station; Hemet San Jacinto Council PTA President Bobbi Moreno; San Jacinto Teachers' Association President Theresa Gonter; Debbi Cornett, president of the SJUSD Classified Employees Association; Dr. Venessa Gomez, SJUSD lead counselor; Luke Smith, SJHS Principal; John I. Norman, SJUSD board president, board members Willie Hamilton, Tricia Ojeda, Deborah Rex and Jasmin Rubio and SJUSD Communication & Emergency Preparedness leader Dawn Lawrence.

Barrett in a video announcement did not indicate the Hemet schools would be participating in the March 14 nationwide walkout. She said that student safety is always paramount in the district and that students leaving campuses that day would do so at their own risk and face the consequences of leaving the school grounds during the school session. She outlined many new security measures being instituted in the HUSD schools, like those in the SJUSD.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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